Thanks in large part to East Carolina stranding 11 runners on base and allowing a five-run scoring outburst in the fifth and sixth innings, the Panthers claimed a 6-4 victory at Clark-LeClair Stadium and clinched the weekend series win as well.
However, the Pirates' (28-19, 13-9 C-USA) loss was overshadowed by a sequence of events following a few controversial calls in the sixth inning.
It all started when Hunter Allen reached first base on a strikeout that was in the dirt, but the call was reversed. Then, later in the frame, an apparent missed tagged at second base was called an out, which led to the ejection of ECU hitting coach Ben Sanderson, who stormed out of the dugout to argue and had to be restrained by Godwin.
After the inning ended, freshman Bryce Harman, who hit his team-leading fifth home run earlier in the game, got tossed as the Pirates took the field for the seventh inning and even volunteer assistant coach Austin Morgan confronted the third-base umpire.
"We're all competing and every pitch matters and we know what's on the line here. I think the biggest thing is we've got to keep our composure and we have to stay in the moment," said Godwin.
The Pirates did not go down quietly in the bottom of the ninth. With the tying run at the dish, Ian Townsend took FIU (32-12, 12-10 C-USA) closer Mike Gomez deep to right field, but Zach Sweety made a catch ahead of the wall.
The game ended in the batting slot that would have been reserved for Harman if he had not been ejected. Fittingly, pinch-hitter Ben Fultz grounded out on a bang-bang play at first base.
|Luke Lowery celebrates a home run Saturday.|
Godwin elected to turn to senior Ryan Williams after Mabry surrendered back-to-back singles in the top of the fifth inning. However, he couldn't bail out his teammate after his 4 1/3 innings of work as FIU struck for three runs on a pair of hits and a sacrifice fly off Williams.
Harman's solo home run in the bottom of the inning trimmed the deficit to a run, but it didn't slow down the Panthers – the visitors added two more in the sixth to stretch their advantage to 6-3. Amidst the chaos that followed, Garrett Brooks scored on Drew Reynolds fielder's choice that made completed Saturday's scoring.
This is ECU's first home series-loss in nearly two months and occurs at a less-than-ideal time while the Pirates look to strengthen their at-large resume. First pitch for Sunday's finale is set for 1 p.m. Sunday.
"We cannot let these two games turn into a loss tomorrow. That's the big message. We've got to scratch and find a way to win tomorrow," said Godwin.